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Overview The worldwide expansion of nuclear energy has been accompanied by concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation. If sited in states that do not possess nuclear weapons technology, some civilian nuclear tech - nologies could provide a route for states or other organizations to acquire nuclear weapons. Metrics for assessing the resistance of a nuclear technol- ogy to diversion for non-peaceful uses—proliferation resistance—have been developed, but at present there is no clear consensus on whether and how these metrics are useful to policy decision makers. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy asked the National Academies to convene a public workshop addressing the capability of current and potential methodologies for assessing host state proliferation risk and resistance to meet the needs of decision makers. This report is a summary of presentations and discussions that transpired at the workshop—held on August 1-2, 2011—prepared by a designated rapporteur following the workshop.1 It does not provide findings and recommendations or repre- sent a consensus reached by the symposium participants or the workshop planning committee. However, several themes that emerged from the workshop discussions are outlined in the following paragraphs. Nonproliferation and new technologies. Several speakers noted that for decades, advanced nuclear fuel cycles have received little attention in 1 Many facts were reiterated at the workshop, and no attempt has been made to attribute these statements in the summary. 1
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2 PROLIFERATION RISK IN NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLES the United States beyond research and development, and that the poten- tial for a worldwide nuclear renaissance may mean that such attention is now overdue. Some participants also noted that non-proliferation policy has not kept pace with new technology developments. For example, one participant stated that relatively new technologies such as laser enrich- ment can present challenges for policy makers. Moreover, advancing tech- nologies from other fields—such as carbon fiber technology—are breaking down the barriers that have previously separated fuel cycle technologies from other industrial technologies. Separate policy and technical cultures. Many participants noted the existence of two cultures within the nuclear nonproliferation community, one highly technical and the other policy-focused. Several examples of poor communication between these two cultures were cited, including: poor communication of policy needs to the technical community; a lack of clear definitions common to both the technical and policy communi- ties for proliferation risk and resistance; and technical results that do not focus on the needs of policy makers. Some participants also noted that the communication difficulties are heightened by the reality that policy makers’ decisions related to nuclear fuel cycle technologies—domestically or internationally—are not solely motivated by proliferation concerns, but are interwoven with other concerns, such as geopolitics, economics, energy, or radioactive waste management requirements. Value of proliferation resistance analysis. Many workshop partici- pants disagreed regarding the value of proliferation resistance or risk analysis itself, particularly if quantification is involved. Several partici- pants judged that technical and quantifiable assessments might be able to provide useful input on some issues, including: • Managing risk when making international policy decisions; • Determining the relative proliferation risk of two fuel cycles; • Deciding where to provide money for further R&D analyses; and • Deciding which countries to cooperate with on nuclear technol- ogy, and how. Furthermore, some participants judged that quantifiable (or at least, highly technical) conclusions could be helpful to policy makers, due to their potential for rigor. On the other hand, other participants judged that technical and quan- tifiable assessments are unlikely to be useful to address many policy- maker concerns. Moreover, some participants judged that quantification might be counterproductive, particularly if underlying assumptions and
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3 OVERVIEW uncertainties in the methodology were not made clear to the policy mak - ers. In addition, some participants raised concerns that identifying the most (and least) proliferation-resistant technologies could assist potential proliferators in determining where to focus their efforts. Usefulness of social science approaches. Finally, participants dis- cussed the possibilities for further analyzing why countries might choose to use nuclear fuel cycle technology to produce nuclear weapons material, using examples from social science and historical analysis. For exam - ple, one participant suggested that there could be stark differences in approaches if the country of interest were a “closed” versus an “open” society.
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